Why should students spend the time and effort on an undergraduate research project?
There are several important points that address this question as follows:
- First, a research experience helps the student decide among career options. The undergraduate research option exposes the student to the real world of experimentation and inquiry. Some will find research exciting but others will find it tedious after a quarter or so and decide that bench level science is not their optimal career objective. In that case a student can withdraw from the laboratory without penalty and is still enriched from the experience.
- Second, a research specialty is a mark of distinction. By taking advantage of research opportunities, a student becomes an attractive and competitive candidate for the best professional and/or graduate schools. These graduate and professional programs are fiercely competitive and entrance committees look carefully for evidence that the student has done more than just attend classes and pass exams with high marks. Tangible signs of success, such as the students name on a scientific publication or abstract, an Honor's thesis, or obtaining scholarships or awards for research, are very attractive additions to an application. Even without these, the student's record demonstrates expertise in performing specialized techniques (that should be listed on resumes). Finally the students perform original research and most find it intellectually gratifying to make new findings in science.
- Third, working in a laboratory allows you to get to know the faculty and vice versa. It is unfortunate, but true, that some students receive a degree and never get to know any faculty outside of the classroom. Our faculty have national and international reputations in the scientific community. Their letters of recommendation are an important component of applications to graduate school or to potential employers.
- Fourth, the biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies tend to favor applicants with hands-on laboratory experience. Some graduates go to work immediately as laboratory technicians. It is a well known fact that it costs time and money to train new employees.
Am I guaranteed acceptance into my first choice faculty laboratory?
No. Although we try to place students into labs, we cannot control acceptance policies. In all situations thus far, students have had no trouble selecting a lab; however, it is the responsibility of the student to make a strong case for acceptance. We will help you in this regard. This has not been a serious problem in the past.
What if I wait until my senior year to find a lab?
We try to discourage latecomers simply because most labs want at least a 2 year committment (i.e., 3 quarter 693, summer, 3 quarters H783). Thus, faculty are less motivated to take undergraduate researchers for only 1 year due to the lengthy learning curve associated with research projects. In other words, you might have problems getting into a lab!
Who can help me find a suitable lab for my research project?
There are several faculty. You should start with your assigned advisor. Others include Dr. Berl Oakley (email@example.com) and Dr. Simcox (firstname.lastname@example.org) who will work with you and provide advice in this regard. However, any faculty member in the Department can assist you.
Can I work in a lab outside the Department of Molecular Genetics?
Yes, however, it is essential that your lab advisor contact your MG academic advisor to discuss the research topic and obtain details about the process leading to Graduation with Distinction. It will be necessary to assign an official advisor within the Department of Molecular Genetics. This has not be a problem in the past.
What about Grades....will 693/H783 affect my academic performance?
There is no doubt that you will be spending a lot of time in the lab that will detract from other activities. You MAY find you have less time for studying; however, our faculty are very understanding and are not slave drivers! We understand your needs and will work with you accordingly. Recognize, however, that if your GPA is not really strong enough to maintain honor's level standards, it may be best for you to focus on grades rather than research. We can advise you more specifically since each case is different.
Can I use 693/H783 credit toward my major?
Yes. You can apply up to 5 hours toward the major. In addition, if you spend at least 3 quarters in the lab, you may petition out the lab course requirement (MG601/602).
What is Graduation with Distinction?
As an honor's student, you have this option. When approved by the ASC Honors committee, the Senior Honors Thesis project admits a student to candidacy for graduation with distinction. Candidates who complete the research and thesis are required to defend their work with an oral examination. The with distinction honor is inscribed on their diploma if they complete their coursework with a minimum 3.3 GPA and complete the thesis with oral defense. Completed Senior Honors Theses are bound and housed in a special section of the main library (room 240). Basically, it entails doing a research project, writing up the results in a thesis and an oral defense of thesis at the end of you senior year. The committee will be composed of your advisor and one other faculty member.
Can with distinction candidacy be undertaken without an Honors Contract?
Yes. With distinction may be undertaken in conjunction with an Honors Contract or within the context of a regular BS curriculum.
What is "The Honors Contract"?
When approved by the ASC Honors Committee, it admits a student to candidacy for graduation with honors in the liberal arts. Students who complete their contract curriculum with a minimum 3.3 GPA have that honor inscribed on their diploma. The committee will approve only those contract proposals which it judges to be of superior strength and breadth. The level of rigor should be sufficient to lead to a with distinction graduation. Contact ASC Honors for more details.
How do I go about requesting a letter of recommendation from faculty? Any guides or suggestions on how to do this?
This is a really important question....here is some good advice:
First: Ask letters from faculty who know you! This might seem obvious but if I'm asked to write a letter for someone in a class of 75 students....I might not be able to do so.
Second: Put your request IN WRITING....tell the faculty member who the letter will go to and why. Include either a self addressed/prestamped envelope or an addressed campus mail envelope (available in the College or Dept. office) as appropriate. Make sure you make a courteous request that is informative and professional....this makes a very positive impression on the person writing on your behalf.
Third: Provide the faculty member a complete resume and unofficial (or official) transcript (or advising report). Make sure your resume is professional and accurately presents a positive and informative picture of you and your experiences. A resume should be typed on bond paper. Include the resume and transcript along with a biographical sketch or "future career goals" statement. You should be very thorough in preparing your resume and include ANYTHING relevant that indicates leadership and responsibility. Are you self-supported in school? Did you do High School Science fair....and indicate if you won any awards. What about unique jobs? Can you operate heavy machinery (?) or describe in detail any lab techniques with which you have primary experience. Really be creative here....for example...if your mother or father is a professional (especially an MD or Ph.D. or professor or stockbroker), you might mention it. This says "hey, I'm from good genetic stock!!".
Fourth: Place all of the items in a nice pocket folder that looks and feels professional....don't skimp here....pull out all the stops and really go for the best possible impression.
Fifth: Dress professionally when you meet the person writing on your behalf. Cleanliness and a professional appearance speak volumes.....go for the gusto.